Saturday, September 24, 2016

Law Enforcement Finally Catches Up To Attorney Recently Disbarred For Commingling, Misappropriating Client Funds; Theft By Misapplication Of Property Charge Brought For Defendant's Alleged Failure To Distribute Nearly $44K Belonging To Dead Client's Estate

In North Haverhill, New Hampshire, the Valley News reports:
  • A 63-year-old Woodsville attorney has been indicted by a Grafton County grand jury on accusations that he failed to distribute nearly $44,000 he had been holding on behalf of the estate of a Haverhill farmer.(1)

    Gary J. Wood, who operated a law office on Pine Street in the village of Woodsville, faces a felony count of theft by misapplication of property.

    He was disbarred this summer, according to documents on the state Bar Association’s website, for allegedly commingling and misappropriating clients’ funds.

    According to his Martindale-Hubbell online profile, Wood earned a law degree from Franklin Pierce Law Center in 1980.

    The indictment asserts Wood deposited $43,927 from the estate of Haverhill resident Irving W. Thayer, into his attorney trust account, at the request of the estate’s executor, Alan Rutherford, a Haverhill real estate appraiser and registered tax preparer.

    Wood was supposed to later return the money to the estate but “recklessly” failed to make the payment “and treated the said funds as his own,” according to the indictment.
    According to the state Bar Association’s website, Wood came under scrutiny in November when he failed to file his annual trust accounting certificate, an auditing system that ensures attorneys either don’t possess any client’s assets or funds, or if they do, ensures the funds are held in compliance with Supreme Court rules.

    Because he failed to produce the certificate, the Supreme Court in December suspended him from practicing law in New Hampshire.

    The next month, the Supreme Court ordered Wood produce a second certificate, this time to show that he had completed and met minimum continuing education requirements for New Hampshire lawyers. Though he had never rectified his first suspension, the Supreme Court again suspended Wood from practicing.

    In May, the Professional Conduct Committee, a board that works under the New Hampshire Supreme Court Attorney Discipline System, recommended to the court that Wood be disbarred.

    The recommendation came after an auditor reviewed Wood’s attorney accounts and found that he “misappropriated client funds,” according to a Supreme Court order, published on the state Bar Association website on July 20.

    “The audit demonstrated that attorney Wood misappropriated client funds in his possession, routinely paid himself before they were earned, commingled client funds with his own funds and operated his Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts with a deficit or out of trust,” the Supreme Court order reads.

    Wood was formally disbarred on July 11.
Source: Woodsville Attorney Indicted.
(1) The Public Protection Fund has been established by the New Hampshire Supreme Court to provide some measure of reimbursement to victims who have lost money or property because of theft or misappropriation by a New Hampshire attorney, and occurring in New Hampshire during the course of a client-attorney or fiduciary relationship between the attorney and you. The Fund is administered by the New Hampshire Bar Association, through a nine-member committee, under the general oversight of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. The Fund is funded by annual contributions made by attorneys who are members of the New Hampshire Bar Association.

For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that attempt to clean up the financial mess created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in other states and Canada, see:
Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.

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